It’s a fact mamas: babies who are held cry less, are more calm and content, sleep more peacefully, nurse and gain weight better, they enjoy better digestion and physically and mentally develop better. (1, 2, 3)
The reality is, that holding your baby all day long can get cumbersome and tiring, UNLESS you are doing it with the help of a baby carrier. "Babywearing" simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a baby carrier. Holding babies close is natural and universal; baby carriers just make it easier and more comfortable. "Babywearing" is the art of wearing your baby in a variety of different carriers, wraps, Mei Tais, or soft-structured carriers (SSC).
With all the recent news regarding consumer recalls of certain kinds of slings and carriers (4), it is more important than ever to understand how to choose the right carrier for you and your baby and how to use it properly.
Here are my Top 5 Tips for Safe and Comfortable Babywearing.
1. Choose a carrier that is right for YOU, your baby and your lifestyle. Different carriers have different feature and benefits and are more appropriate for different ages and stages of your child. A carrier that is two-shouldered and has a waist tie or strap will allow you to carry your baby comfortably for a lot longer than a ring sling or pouch sling. On the other hand, if you need something for shorter periods, quick trips in and out of the car to run errands or for a special occasion, then a ring sling may be just the thing. Seek advice and education about different carriers and if you can, try out a few before you make your decision (your mama friends, natural parenting stores and your local La Leche League meetings are good places to start).
2. Consider who else will be wearing the baby--daddy, grandparents, older siblings, caregivers. An adjustable carrier (a wrap, a ring sling, Mei Tai or a SSC) may be a better idea than a sized carrier such as a pouch sling.
3. Positioning of the baby in ANY carrier is of the utmost importance and ensures the safety of your baby and your comfort. The following criteria should be met at all times in ALL carriers(5):
- Baby should be facing inwards (or on the back in a back carry)
- Knees are higher than the bum or hips in a frog-like position
- Legs are out of the carrier and splayed in an 'M' position (30-45' angle from hips)
- Baby is HIGH on the wearer’s body (baby's bum should never be lower than your belly button)
- The fabric of the carrier is carefully tightened around baby, spread from one knee to the other
- Baby’s head is tilted back, face uncovered, to ensure that there is no risk of the airway becoming blocked. You should be able to get two finger widths between baby’s chin and chest, if not-REPOSITION!
**The upright position is a safer choice for several reasons: Baby’s neck is in a straight line with the body and his face rests on the wearer’s chest, with free airflow on both sides. Babies rely on the rounded spine to properly support and distribute the weight of their head and upper body and when a wrap or sling is tightened properly, the immature rounded spine gets maximum support and the natural “frog-leg”-position promotes the development of baby’s cartilaginous hip joints.
4. Practice Makes Perfect. Babywearing is a learned skill and does take some practice. Use a doll or a stuffy to practice with your carrier before you put your child in it. When starting to use the carrier with the baby, always do so on a soft surface like a bed or a sofa (or better yet, on the floor) and if possible have a spotter (someone who will accept the responsibility of keeping your baby from falling).
5. Use common sense when wearing your baby and do not engage in activities that you would not do without the carrier. Avoid activities with risk of falling, like climbing a ladder, horseback riding, cycling or skating. Don't lean over a hot stove when you're babywearing. Be careful when drinking hot coffee or tea. Don't handle knives or other sharp objects. Don't lean out a window or over the stairs. The list could go on and on... in the end it is up to you to ensure that you are protecting your baby AND enjoying the joys of babywearing.
With all that being said--go out and find the right carrier for you and your baby and enjoy all the benefits of babywearing for both you and your precious cargo!!
Happy Babywearing Everyone! Natasha~